In an ideal world, this should not make the news: sexual lives are personal and private – but we do not live in an ideal world.
Young people need role models. Young boys in particular look to their sporting heroes, far too few of them have had the courage to come out publicly as gay. There are welcome exceptions – and England cricketer Steven Davies has just added to the number, becoming the second British member of a national squad in a major team sport to do so. (The first was Welsh rugby captain, Gareth Thomas).
Steven Davies, the 24-year-old Surrey and England wicketkeeper, has become the latest high-profile sportsman to announce he is gay. In today’s Daily Telegraph Davies becomes the first serving professional cricketer to ‘out’ himself.
Davies, who began his career at Worcestershire, says he hopes his decision will encourage other young gay people to do the same. He said: ‘This is the right time for me. I feel it is the right time to be out in the open about my sexuality. If more people do it, the more acceptable it will become.’
Davies follows the former Wales rugby union player Gareth Thomas, who also went public about his sexuality.
The New Statesman makes a bold claim, that Davies’ coming out could be the tipping point for public acceptance and openness in sports, based on the contrast between Davies and Gareth Thomas, who did so at the peak of his career, and with a solid backing of public support . Davies is young, just starting out in his career, and has not yet established that personal following, which made his action all the more courageous. This assertion of a tipping point may be premature – but there will certainly be many more, in Britain and elsewhere, in team sports of all kinds as well as in the individual sporting codes (where there are rather more examples already).
Coming out is a process, not an event. Davies first did so to his family, five years ago, and then to his cricketing colleagues after his selection for the national team last year. He has now gone public. The very many other gay men in professional sport, who remain trapped in a closet of fear should pay attention to his words: coming out can help others – but also themselves. Coming out is a relief.
“I’m comfortable with who I am – and happy to say who I am in public,” he said in an interview with The Sun.
“To speak out is a massive relief for me, but if I can just help one person to deal with their sexuality then that’s all I care about.”
Davies, who missed out on a place in the England squad for the current World Cup campaign, came out to his friends and family five years ago.
But the first time he told any of his fellow players came following his selection for England’s successful Ashes tour during the recent winter.
And he revealed the relief he felt after telling captain Andrew Strauss and the rest of the team.
“It was a fantastic thing to do, telling the lads. The difference is huge. I am so much happier,” he said.